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Both campaigns want to claim momentum heading into the final days of the campaign. This is especially true in battleground states like Iowa, where enthusiasm and voter turnout can make all the difference.

It's a common political metaphor — momentum — but is it a good one?

There's presidential politics and then there's puppet politics. You may recall that in the first presidential debate GOP contender Mitt Romney made a statement that caused the two worlds to collide.

"I am going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too," Romney said, referring to moderator Jim Lehrer. "But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."

To many Americans, the right to vote in a presidential election is a sacred and precious opportunity. To others, the right to not vote is just as meaningful. And they exercise it.

In just-released data, the Pew Research Center reports that about 43 percent of Americans of voting age in 2008 didn't participate in the presidential election.

Rick and Cindy Oleshak won't be voting the same way in the presidential election, and they want the world to know it.

The couple display competing yard signs in front of their house in Webster Groves, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. The Romney-Ryan sign is clearly marked "his," while Obama-Biden is "hers."

"We don't watch the debates together," says Cindy Underwood-Oleshak, a marketing consultant. "It took us probably 45 minutes to an hour longer to watch the debates four years ago, because we kept stopping and pausing and arguing."

With plenty of election ennui going around, NPR Books dug into the archives for new ways to look at the election story. Here you'll find accounts of past campaigns gone wrong, an examination of the science and art of prediction and an idea of what happens when the pre-presidential storyline gets a dose of sci fi, fantasy and puberty, respectively.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – New polls show Washington’s open race for governor remains close. Already hundreds of thousands of Washington voters have returned their ballots. Many more will do so in the coming days. But county auditors have a warning to voters who wait until the last minute.

In Oregon you have to have your ballot in by 8pm on Election night. But in Washington you just have to have your ballot postmarked. That means for days after the election ballots keep on rolling in and they get counted -– unless the postmark is past the due date.

With the arrival of the last weekend before Election Day, it's crunchtime for President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Heading into the last 72 hours of their fight for the White House, it's the moment in the campaign when the president and his challenger make their closing arguments, fine tuned to excite their committed supporters but not so partisan as to drive off the diminishing sliver of wavering voters still left to be won over.

Northwest money helps pay for swing state ads

Nov 2, 2012

Northwest voters are spared most presidential campaign ads. But Northwest money still plays a part in them. A handful of big spenders from the region are bolstering major super PACs behind a barage of ads now hitting swing states.

Florida voters might thank some wealthy Washington residents for a recent ad blitz targeting President Obama. People working in the financial services sector around Seattle have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Karl Rove's American Crossroads. It's a super PAC that supports Republican candidates.

Have you heard the story that's swept the liberal blogosphere in recent days about how Mitt Romney's son Tagg is going to steal the election for his dad?

It's not true, but like all good conspiracy theories, it is based on kernels of truth.

This conspiracy centers on voting machines in Ohio, a key battleground in this election. A couple of Ohio counties use voting machines made by a company called Hart InterCivic. According to the rumor, Tagg Romney owns part of Hart. So, goes the story, Tagg Romney could fix the election.

John-Morgan

Taxes have loomed large this election season. Can we jumpstart the economy by changing the tax system? Should the rich pay more or less?

These are hotly debated issues and for perspective, we turned to two experts on opposite ends of the political spectrum. In an earlier interview, Robert Reich, who was President Clinton’s labor secretary, explained why he thinks the tax system needs to do more to redistribute wealth from the rich toward the poor and middle class.

Campaign reporters spend a lot of time pointing at color-coded electoral maps like the one below, showing which states voted for Republican John McCain (in red) and Democrat Barack Obama (in blue) in 2008.

But these maps lie — visually speaking.

Red appears to be the clear winner, dominating a vast swath from the South to the Rockies. It's all geographically accurate, but electorally skewed. For example, Montana (three electoral votes) dwarfs Massachusetts (which had 12 electoral votes in 2008).

What if there was a crystal ball that could reveal the outcome of an election? Turns out modern day campaigns use forecast models to project the winner of a race long before a single vote is counted.

In vote-by-mail states like Washington or Oregon, political parties and campaigns have an advantage. They can find out on a daily basis if you’ve returned your ballot.

Amid the devastation caused by Sandy, there are signs the superstorm might have blown a fresh breeze into the nation's politics. Suddenly, everyone's talking about something that seemed impossible just days before — bipartisanship.

Nothing sums that attitude up better than the actions of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Republican Christie, who has worked closely with GOP hopeful Mitt Romney's campaign and has consistently proved one of President Obama's harshest critics, put that aside in the aftermath of Sandy.

Initiatives to legalize marijuana and create charter schools in Washington are pulling away toward approval in the latest poll by The Washington Poll and KCTS9. The poll is a project of the Center for Survey Research at the University of Washington.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A Washington state congressional candidate says abortion should not be legal, even when it involves "the rape thing."

401(K) 2012

The middle class is struggling. The rich are growing richer.

Is there anything we can do to stem rising income inequality? Would changes to our tax system help?

In the final days before the election, KPLU asked two experts – one liberal, one conservative – to weigh in on what to do about income inequality and how to fix our tax system.

If you're using social media to follow the presidential campaign or even if you're related to someone else who's doing that, there's a good chance your cellphone got spammed Tuesday night with an anti-Obama text message.

The messages went out between 7:30 and 10 p.m. They were anonymous but quickly traced to a Republican consulting firm in Northern Virginia.

The campaign to bring charter schools to Washington has now raised $10.8 million in cash contributions.

Federal Election Law Hotlines Tend To Be Snoozers In NW

Oct 31, 2012

This election day, the U.S. Department of Justice will have federal attorneys in every state, ready to take complaints. It's a long-standing program aimed at combating election fraud and voter rights abuses. But the hotlines tend to be pretty quiet in the Northwest.

The election day program has been around for decades. But attorneys in Oregon and eastern Washington say -– at least in recent memory -– they haven't gotten any complaints. Western Washington received a few calls in 2008 about voter registration issues.

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee has burned through his cash as the campaign enters the final week.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Brad Pitt has agreed to donate $100,000 to help the Human Rights Campaign raise money for its efforts to support same-sex marriage initiatives in several states.

President Obama offered thoughts and prayers Tuesday for all those who have been affected by Sandy. He also offered something more tangible: the full resources of the federal government.

"The most important message I have for them is that America's with you," he said. "We are standing behind you, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet."

For Obama, the federal government is a critical vehicle for that kind of help. Republicans put more faith in local government, and even voluntary efforts.

Hurricane Sandy's on-the-ground devastation has yet to be cataloged, and how the violent storm may affect the presidential campaign with just a week to Election Day is equally uncertain.

Will President Obama's response to the disaster help or hurt his re-election prospects? Or will the campaign's new trajectory — canceled appearances, postponed early voting — ultimately benefit Republican Mitt Romney?

Not really thinking much about that, are you?

Atomic Taco

Bus riders in Pierce County face dramatic cuts to service if voters reject a ballot proposition to hike the sales tax. Opponents are fighting hard against the measure, saying it would make Pierce County’s sales tax the highest on the West Coast.

If you ask people in downtown Tacoma how they feel about paying more in sales tax, you hear a common refrain.

"The sales tax is pretty high as it is, and I think it will be hard for people to swallow," said Michele Anderson.

In King County, both men vying to be sheriff say they'll reform a department found to do a poor job of investigating police misconduct complaints.

But neither Steve Strachan nor John Urquhart are what you'd call outside reformers. 

(To hear the entire story, click the Listen button above.)

Voters in both Oregon and Washington are considering measures this November that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. If they pass, the laws would further widen the legal gap with neighboring Idaho, where police worry about spillover.

Idaho State Police Major Kevin Hudgens just learned about the two measures to the west of his state. He says they concern him.

“Common sense tells me that I’m sure we’d see some of our residents going over to Oregon and Washington to purchase marijuana. So, we would likely see an increase in that.”

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington Democratic Party says it will donate contributions from controversial spiritual leader JZ Knight to the Anti-Defamation League and the campaign to uphold gay marriage. That announcement late Friday follows the release of new video clips that show Knight making offensive and at times bizarre comments about gay people and people from Mexico.

The latest video clips were released by the conservative Freedom Foundation. In them Knight says gay men were once Catholic women. And attacks people from Mexico.

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